Seals map bathymetry of the Antarctic continental shelf

Authors


Abstract

[1] We demonstrate the first use of marine mammal dive-depth data to improve maps of bathymetry in poorly sampled regions of the continental shelf. A group of 57 instrumented elephant seals made on the order of 2 × 105 dives over and near the continental shelf on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula during five seasons, 2005–2009. Maximum dive depth exceeded 2000 m. For dives made near existing ship tracks with measured water depths H<700 m, ∼30% of dive depths were to the seabed, consistent with expected benthic foraging behavior. By identifying the deepest of multiple dives within small areas as a dive to the seabed, we have developed a map of seal-derived bathymetry. Our map fills in several regions for which trackline data are sparse, significantly improving delineation of troughs crossing the continental shelf of the southern Bellingshausen Sea.

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